Sometimes I get an email that is particularly

Sometimes I get an email that is particularly special, or is from someone special, and it gives me that wide, clear, rushing feeling that is all happiness and gratitude. And slight disbelief at my good fortune. I usually have to pause and read it through a few times. Often in these situations I find that I don’t want to respond right away. I want to wait a few hours, maybe even a day (which we all know is an aeon in email time). I just want to live in that limbo space between communications that is cushioned with quiet, pleasant suspense on both sides. It is one of my favorite things.

It’s kind of like the pregnant pause in face-to-face conversation that is so loaded with beauty, with meaning, that your heart swells and your eyes string and your smile would stretch past your ears if it could and it’s much easier to gasp and bask in this embracing silence than to say anything just yet.

The email version isn’t quite as lovely, but I’ll take what I can get!

Falling In Like

It took me much longer than most to discover the existence of the opposite sex. And even once I understood that tantalizingness, my understanding was abstract and intellectual, not physical or emotional. Perhaps I was too busy studying or too concerned about the existential purpose of life (that may be an oxymoron). Perhaps I was just plainly uninterested or plainly not interested enough. But whatever the reason, it has taken me eighteen long years to know what it is to fall head-over-heels in like.

Now, this is not to say that I never thought certain guys were cute – I did, and even had a few crushes. At least, I called them crushes in my head, liking the lush, secret sound of the word itself and the importance it carried. But I never was boy-crazy, never thought much about any boy when not in his presence, and never really wanted a crush to amount to anything more than something to giggle about at sleepovers. I had a theory that this boy-apathy may also have been the result of my lacking self-confidence as a kid and my fear that no boy would like me. Because if no boy would like me back, why expend all the energy it seemed to take to like someone myself?

Well. Let me tell you, as if you don’t already know, that when you really like someone, you don’t get a choice. It comes whizzing out of nowhere and hits you in the stomach like some kind of three ton frisbee, and I’ll be darned if you can ignore that much power. Self-confidence or not, you’re knocked to the ground like a sack of potatoes and left to fend for yourself in this new and sparkling state of shell-shocked infatuation. It can be lovely, if you look at it more as a blossoming, a christening of the heart. In fact, I think that it reinforces my belief in God, strangely enough. The sky looks slightly bluer, the flowers are somehow changed, and perhaps the realization itself – that there is someone I really want to know and understand – is divine, because why should I be so fortunate, be complete, even if just for a moment?

Anyway, enough rambling. I’ll tell you about the guy. Let’s call him CG. He is tall and dark; quiet, thoughtful, and laughs a winsome laugh. He sings and acts. He has four brothers and a generous-hearted mother. We even have exactly two inside jokes. The only problem is that I am a new high school grad, and he is going to be a senior next year. I’m going to college across the country. And he has no idea how I like him.

It’s sort of okay with me, though. I’m happy simply to feel that I have now crossed the threshold into true womanhood (or something like that). A few nights ago, my choir sang the national anthem at a baseball game, and CG and I sat next to each other in the bleachers after our performance. Neither of us understand the point of sports, so we talked the whole time. I’d venture a guess that 60% of my brain was concentrating on the conversation, while the other 40% was divided between the sound of his voice and his magnificent facial features, most notably his chocolate eyes and his taunting lips. I really wanted to kiss them, but I am not brave.

Dreamer

I’m a dreamer, in both senses of the word. I am chock full of “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”, as Dickinson would say, and always have my head in the clouds. And, nine out of ten mornings, I remember the dreams from which I’ve woken up. So I’m both kinds of dreamer, today and all days, pretty much. 

Before bed last night, my mom and I had a yelling match. In essence, it was over nothing, just a t-shirt and some forgotten errands. But as I’m sure you know, sometimes little things trigger deeply rooted problems, and before you know it, you’re falling off a cliff into some cavernous canyon you forgot existed within yourself, and the only way you can hope to catch yourself on a ledge is to craft yourself a lifeline made entirely of anger – and quick. So, that’s exactly what I did, and before long my throat was hoarse and I was swearing under my breath, walking out of the kitchen and slamming my bedroom door like the teenager I hate to be.

My mom and I are inextricably tied up in each other, but I wouldn’t say we are close. There is too much anger and hurt and confusion between us; yet, she means so much to me that the thought of life without her is unbearable. Perhaps some other mothers and daughters out there can relate…though my situation is made a bit more twisted, a bit stranger, by my mom’s having been abused as a child and my own rather fragile state of mental health. It’s an interesting dynamic, to say the least, and a relationship that causes me a lot of pain, but an amount of joy that is hardly quantifiable.

So I went to sleep on the heels of the blow-up, and this morning I woke up with wet eyes and a sweaty pajama top. Various dream moments flitted behind my eyelids as I lay in the late morning sunlight, not wanting to get up just yet. I recalled the moment of fear and earth-shattering embarrassment when I showed up to Dr. Cat’s class wearing nothing but a pair of underwear…I slouched, covered my chest with my arms, and explained my nakedness (whatever the explanation was seemed to work in the dream world, but could not be coherently related to my awakened brain). Picturing Dr. Cat’s compassionate gaze on my pale, exposed skin made me shiver with the sheer vulnerability of it all. The cool air against my nakedness stung, and in real time I rubbed my pajama pants in gratitude.

My mind’s eye shifted focus and settled on another, later part of the patchwork of dreams: I was sobbing into the chest of my piano teacher, who was murmuring soothingly, nonsensically. The silk of her black blouse was delicate and soft. We were in a gymnasium filled with people supposedly celebrating something, and despite my best efforts, my sobs were loud, raw and jagged like a young child’s. People turned away in an attempt to give me privacy, which was impossible in the crowded room. I felt stifled by the crowd and her chest and my own tears which made me choke, but at the same time, I clung to my teacher with all of my might. She kissed the top of my head, and a searing pain spread between my ribs.

I opened my eyes, not wanting to relive anymore of last night’s onslaught of dreams. Good going, brain, I thought with slight irritation. All that craftsmanship and you can’t even come up with creative dream metaphors. Sigh. As you probably have noticed, I feel what I don’t feel during the day at nighttime while I sleep. Sometimes, my dreams are so wild that I have no idea what the significance is. But then there are times like last night, when I want to shout at my dream in a caustic tone, “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” The dreams showed me, in graphic detail, what the fight with my mom made me feel: scared and vulnerable, anguished and self-conscious, starkly alone and longing for closeness and comfort. The anger hid all that, but, as usual, darkness reveals what it must.

 

Epiphany

I was standing in the shower today, letting the warm water fall down my back, and cradling my broken left wrist against my torso. I broke my wrist a few weeks ago in a terrifying car accident. I had a cast for a bit, but I recently got upgraded to a removable brace (that vaguely resembles the kind toddlers use when they roller-blade) so I can take it off and shower. While the removable-ness is convenient, definitely, I never quite know what to do with my broken, useless hand when I take off the brace so I end up resting it against me like some wounded animal. It makes me feel an embarrassing twinge of self-pity and a surprising, sorrowful desire to be hugged by my mother, if my mother were the type to hug pain away.

Anyway. While I was standing there figuring out which shampoo I wanted to use today (I have three bottles; curly hair is a pain), a sudden surge of gratitude flooded through me and then began to recede. I was so taken aback by it and so utterly confused (remember, I was in my sorry state of considering broken bones and non-hugging mothers) that at first I let it surge and recede without any analysis at all, shocked into dumb submission. But just as the gratitude was about to escape from the edges of my consciousness, I drew it back towards a crystallized center with all my might, closing my eyes and willing the feeling to take shape again. It did, and I examined it’s sculptural clarity, it’s strangely uncluttered surfaces, this new and pure form of gratitude that my heart’s palm seemed to hold, with slight trepidation, as though it were a precious pearl.

High school is newly over. I have been feeling rather nostalgic about leaving my school, my teachers, my friends, and, eventually, my hometown and family. But I’ve been pretty happy, in a way, as well. I’ve been happy that I’ve been sad, because I had harbored a secret worry that I would not feel even the remotest bit of loss at leaving my present life, and that, in it’s own way, was even more painful than missing it. So as this gratitude washed over me, along with shampoo number two, and my eyes stung (pretend that was from the shampoo, too), and I realized that I was grateful to be grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had in the last four years. High school wasn’t a beach, but it wasn’t half bad, either.

Tears

I’d like to introduce myself a bit better, but I am having trouble finding proper words. The beginning is the hardest part of most things, I find. So I’m just going to write about someone else in my life who is very important to me (and I bet you’ll learn about me in the process).

I am currently finishing up my senior year of high school. I have had a certain teacher for two years – for the sake of privacy, let’s call her Dr. Cat – whom I adore both as a teacher and as a person. And I want to tell you about her tears.

Yeah, weird, I know. But before I get to that, I’ll tell you that she has been my English teacher, my Gender Studies teacher, and my Philosophy teacher. In her classes I’ve read literature ranging from The Great GatsbyAs I Lay Dying, Moby-Dick, and Plato’s Republic to Guyland, The Symposium and selections of works by Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Hume, and Aquinas. Let’s just say it’s been interesting. The most interesting, most fun part of high school, actually.

You can probably already tell that I’m not a huge fan of high school. Don’t get me wrong – I like my high school (I go to a pretentious prep-school) and I have (some) friends. But I love literature and classical/opera music and museums, and I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I always want to be singing or reading, and so I really don’t like high school in general. This time of life is just all a big mess for everyone, myself included…no matter how good the education I’ve been fortunate enough to receive. But I digress on this issue for now.

On to the good stuff. In short, I feel lucky that Dr. Cat cries in front of me. No, she doesn’t sob or moan in a ridiculous manner. She’s not unprofessional or immature. Quite the contrary, in my opinion. I think she is brave and honest. She is never afraid to be real, to be direct. I’ll give you an example. One of my classmates, let’s call her K, has a parent who is dying of cancer. I was talking with Dr. Cat earlier in the year about this terrible situation. Dr. Cat told me she wanted to be there for K but is only a teacher…she said it so earnestly, with so much compassion and regret…and she wanted to cry. Her eyes swam. But she continued looking at me, continued the conversation, even as a solitary tear coursed down her cheek.

Once, Dr. Cat told me that she loves churches, despite not really believing in God. She was raised a Christian, and she feels that she can’t give up her ties to her culture and family. She tried, but couldn’t quite explain why she loves to be in an empty church all alone. I thought for a moment, thought about her being adopted and waif-like and beautiful and confused and wise, with eyes so dark and bottomless that the pupils are almost invisible, and then I said, “Because you’re part of the chain. Time stretches, it is still and unbroken.” She smiled that sweet, tearful smile that is becoming so familiar and said “Yes! Exactly. Thank you for saying that.” And she continued beaming at me while she wiped her eyes.

On a rainy Friday morning a few months ago, I was sitting in the hallway doing homework, when Dr. Cat walked through the door, having just come from the cafeteria. She looked a bit dazed to me, so when she walked by and we exchanged greetings, I asked her if she was okay. She smiled and nodded, but thanked me. Later that day, I went to her classroom to turn in a paper. I knocked on her door; she opened it and ushered me into the lamp-lit room. I put my paper on the stack and began to make my way back to the door, but I lingered a bit, wanting to talk. I always want to talk to her. So we did talk a bit, and suddenly the conversation went from being a funny, surface one to one of the ones worthy of being in this blog post. I learned that three of her family members had died over the last month. I informed her that I would be giving her a hug.

“I’m giving you a hug,” is what I said.

“Why?”

“Because this is so sad, that’s why.”

I went over to her and threw my arms around her tiny frame. I was surprised at the strength with which she returned the embrace. And that she held on. Presently, I felt trembling. And I realized that, at eighteen, I was doing something for the first time in my life, something I had always wanted to do: I was holding someone while she cried.

Dr. Cat is a mix of various ethnicities, which gives her an exotic look. Her skin is light olive and her hair is golden, but her eyes are what I am most interested in. They are so big and dark and deep that you’d think they would be inscrutable; but they aren’t, because even as tears slip down her cheeks, she holds my gaze. Always. She never shies away from truth. She is so precise with her words, careful to share with me exactly what she means. She lives in the moment. She lets her ideas take shape as she speaks and is okay with faltering, which occasionally happens even though she has such a strong foundation of wisdom. It is not very often that someone will speak to me from within, from that core place. But she does, from a place where it is safe for her to trust me and for me to trust her. It’s as if she’s saying, “This is who I am, and I want you to know me.”

I am honored that I do.

I’m Jewish

And this is a favorite teaching of mine.

“Why do we hide? To be found, perhaps. There is a Hasidic tale of a Rabbi who found his child crying. When he asked what was wrong the boy said, ‘I was hiding and no one came to look for me.’ The Rabbi comforted him and mused, ‘You know, God makes the same complaint.’ Don’t only hide. Seek.”

–RDW

The First Post

Well, I’ll be honest – the idea of a first post is a bit overwhelming, nerve-wracking. Like, what do people want to read? And what do I actually want people to read? It’s true, I’m starting a blog. Clearly, for some reason unbeknownst to you (and me, for that matter), I want people to read what I write. Or rather, it might be that I simply want to write, can’t get enough of my fingers flying across the keys and my mind racing to create…and I want some writing forum that is a bit more pristine and professional than an old diary.

Yes, I should probably inform you that I am an avid diary-keeper and thus will probably be getting pretty personal. I like the deep, the emotional. My life isn’t so exciting or action-packed (I go to school, I sing in choir, I read a lot, I attempt to jog, I have a dog, I like pizza), but my inner life is, I’d like to think, kind of scintillating. Maybe. I suppose you’ll have to be the judge.